Dave Villwock’s U-96 Spirit of Qatar, the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto and U-7 Graham Trucking swing around the Roostertail Turn at the start of Heat 2A. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Dave Villwock’s U-96 Spirit of Qatar, the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto and U-7 Graham Trucking swing around the Roostertail Turn at the start of Heat 2A. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
DETROIT - Dave Villwock took one more step toward immortality by running away with the Jarvis Restoration 101st American Power Boat Association Gold Cup on Sunday in Detroit.

The win was the 60th of Villwock's career and his eighth in the Gold Cup. He is now just two victories shy of tying Bill Muncey for the most career wins in history at 62 and three Gold Cups away from Chip Hanauer's record 11.

"It's unbelievable. Who ever thought I would get 60 wins. I was happy to win a couple," Villwock, of Auburn, Wash., said. "I thought I would race for only a couple of years and to be in the same numerical company as Muncey and Hanauer is just unbelievable."

Villwock's U-96 Spirit of Qatar was by far the class of the weekend on the Detroit River. The team was the fastest qualifier by more than 4 mph, easily won all four preliminary heats and was never touched in the winner-take-all final.

Situated in Lane 1 for the final, Villwock wasn't the first driver across the start line, but he was the first through the first turn and was never challenged again. By the third of the five laps, Villwock was able to back off and cruise to the win.

"From the get-go in qualifying, (Villwock) had us," said Steve David, driver of the U-1 Oh Boy! Oberto/Miss Madison. "He just had the right props and gears for this course. We were set up the fastest last week (at Madison) and won and he was set up the fastest this week and won. We knew it was going to be tough and that we were going to have to push him and hope that something would break. As usual, that team did a great job of putting together an outstanding boat."

Ironically, the U-96 team did fight bugs all weekend. A rudder bracket broke earlier in the day Sunday and the bracket on the skid fin broke in the third set of heats Sunday morning. Those issues forced the team to thrash all afternoon just to get the boat on the water. The Ballard, Wash.-based team patched the boat enough to get it on the water for the fourth heat then finished the job before the final.

"(Owner and crew chief) Erick (Ellstrom) wasn't even going to allow me to go out for the fourth heat," Villwock said. "I did my best to tear that boat up but they were able to get it back together."

Villwock's most impressive victory of the weekend came in Heat 2A on Saturday where he was forced to start in Lane 4 with Jeff Bernard and the U-5 Formulaboats.com, J. Michael Kelly and the U-7 Graham Trucking and David and the Oberto inside of him. Despite three very fast boats with shorter tracks on the inside, Villwock simply drove around the outside and took control by the end of the first lap. He ended up winning the heat by a quarter lap.

"That heat was the difference," Villwock said. "When we were able to drive around three pretty fast boats and get the win, that really put us in a good position for the final."

David won the two preliminary heats in which he was not paired with Villwock and finished second in the two others and the final. The result was his 11th runner-up finish in the Gold Cup including his third-straight to Villwock without a win.

"Too many. That's spelled T-O-O-M-A-N-Y," said David when asked about how many second places he has recorded in his 20 attempts at the Gold Cup. "I'm going to keep coming back until I'm 150 but I will win it."

Greg Hopp and Nate Brown claimed the other preliminary heat wins. Brown's victory in Heat 2B was the first in the three-year history of the U-17 Miss Red Dot team. Hopp's win in Heat 1A was the highlight of an incredibly strong weekend for a U-100 Jarvis Restoration team that couldn't even get on the water last week at Madison running unsponsored as Leland Unlimited.

"I really wanted to win the Gold Cup and I wanted to win it for (owner) Fred (Leland)," said Hopp, who is still searching for his first career win. "This team did such a great job of getting the boat ready to go. They got about an hour sleep on Friday night and they were just dead, but they all perked up when we got that win in Heat 1A. I'm just so happy for the team. They needed this."

The scariest moment of the weekend came in Saturday's Heat 1B when the skid fin failed on the U-37 Miss Peters & May as it was entering Turn Two, the very tight "Roostertail Turn."

The 30-foot boat boat was initially headed toward the pits but driver J.W. Myers was able to turn the 6,750-pound hydroplane away from the docks where other boats and crew members were preparing for the next race .

Myers reward was a high-speed impact with the nearby seawall just below the Roostertail Banquet Hall. The crash destroyed the left-side of the boat and cracked the enclosed driver's cockpit.

Myers was able to climb out of the cockpit under his own power but he was taken to nearby St. John Hospital. X-rays and a CAT Scan found four broken bones in his lower left leg that will require surgery. Myer, wearing a cast, returned to Detroit's Horace E. Dodge Pits in time to watch the final heat on Sunday.

The hydros now head to Tri-City, Wash., for the third race on the 2010 H1 Unlimited Tour. With the Gold Cup out of the picture, the Oberto team now turns its attention to the bigger picture of defending its back-to-back national championships.

"This was one of our three goals: to win our third national title, win at Madison and win the Gold Cup," said David. "Now we just have concentrate on the national title."